Just last week the Harare City Council embarked on another operation Murambatsvina where they razed illicit vending shacks in Mbare to the ground. They accused vendors of illegally building these shacks so they could engage in vending. The thing they omitted to mention though is that there is really no place for the vendors to go. The city council turned Mupedzanhamo, the famous vending location in Mbare into a car park a while back. Since then they haven’t really built anything for vendors or told them where to go. They just like to occasional unleash municipal graders and police to go after vendors. If you think this is cruel and makes no sense you are not alone but then again it mirrors the behaviour of the central government too which has been mum on the issue.
War against the informal sector
As I have said before the Zimbabwean authorities policies can be summed up in simple words. Tax, tax, ban. They love to tax the informal sector but have waged all manner of war. This is despite the fact that the informal sector in this country forms the bulk of the economy. Take for example the kombi sector, it was banned out of existence for no good reason and supplanted by the failing monopoly that is ZUPCO. No sensible reason that can withstand scrutiny has been given with the government hailing the usual platitudes and blaming kombis for COVID-19 this is despite the fact that commuters now have to make do with mushikashika which is worse than kombis.
in the video above the vendors ask valid questions. Why would the council take their vending stalls away from them and turn them into car parks? They did not provide any replacement for Mupedzanhamo and it’s not even clear why this was done as should be the case in a democratic nation. It’s just one of the murky deals that councils around the country often engage in. More often than not closer examination often reveals corruption as the main motivator.
Do not be surprised when the council does finally provide an alternative for vendors it will not be a viable one. The Mupedzanhamo stall has existed for at least over a decade. It was kind of like a famous low-income shopping mall. Customers are familiar with the location which is easy to reach. The last time the council offered vendors a location it was way out of town, a place not frequented by customers along Cripps/Chitungwiza road. Vendors complied by giving up as this place was not reachable via foot traffic which forms the bulk of their customers.
Again it is shocking and mind-boggling that Harare City Council did what they did and dispossessed vendors of such a prime vending location. There was never a referendum as there should have been given the importance of such a decision. It just goes to show how many councillors abuse their position. It’s a decision within the same vein as illegal stand sales and land barons. While we often passionately speak about corruption in the central government most people shy away from speaking against town and city councils as they are often led by opposition members.